Oregon Hazelnuts: The Nut of Choice for Earth Month

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With the plant-forward movement on the rise, people are more curious than ever about where their food comes from and how it’s produced. While stewardship is always top of mind for the Oregon hazelnut industry, Earth Month is the perfect time to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the industry’s growing practices and what makes this crop special.

Grounded in research.

Oregon hazelnut growers invest heavily in research to fully understand the hazelnut crop and ultimately enhance the crop and the environment in which it grows. Oregon State University is a key partner for the industry, as they conduct much of the grower-funded research to improve the growing and sustainability practices. This includes projects to discover ideal nutrient requirements for the trees, how to protect beneficial insects, how to prevent soil erosion on hillsides, the best fertilization techniques and different irrigation methods.

Oregon Hazelnuts are a low-input crop.

According to Arbor Day Foundation, “Hazelnuts use less water and are drought resistant. Massive root systems allow perennial plants to avoid short term droughts that would adversely affect annual crops.” Thanks to the rich volcanic soil and bountiful rainfall in the Pacific Northwest, hazelnuts thrive in this unique climate. In fact, “once orchards are established, the hazelnut trees often need little to no irrigation,” says Meredith Nagely, Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board. Additionally, hazelnut trees sequester more carbon than annual crops and reduce soil erosion.

Stewards of the land.

Since healthy hazelnut trees can produce nuts for more than 100 years, farmers look at hazelnut growing as a long-term investment. They pride themselves on being stewards of the land and keeping all aspects of production – from planting to harvesting to processing – in balance for years to come. A few interesting facts about orchard maintenance:

  • After harvest season each fall, growers intentionally leave debris on the orchard floors to encourage growth of earthworm populations and to provide nutrients for the following year.
  • Mature orchards tend to have few weed problems, because intentional shading inhibits most weed establishment.
  • In young orchards, vegetative strips between the tree rows provide habitat for beneficial insects that aid in pest management.

Hazelnut shells can be repurposed.

Hazelnut shells can be repurposed in a variety of ways. Hazelnut shells burn at a high temperature, meaning they can be used in fireplace logs. Additionally, many homeowners use hazelnut shells as an alternative to bark dust for creative landscaping because they deter weeds and slugs.